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A banner hangs at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School to honor the victims killed in last week's school shooting, Friday, June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP) A banner hangs at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School to honor the victims killed in last week's school shooting, Friday, June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP)

A banner hangs at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School to honor the victims killed in last week's school shooting, Friday, June 3, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP)

Sara Swann
By Sara Swann June 3, 2022

Claim suggests billions should go to SWAT in schools. But there’s more to consider

If Your Time is short

  • The U.S. has spent $53 billion on aid to Ukraine as part of a bipartisan effort to oppose Russia’s invasion of the fledgling democracy.

  • More than $3 billion goes toward U.S. schools safety equipment and personnel every year, according to market research analysis and federal figures.

  • Researchers largely agree that armed officers at K-12 schools do not prevent mass shootings or other gun-related incidents from happening.

  • Instead, experts recommend threat assessment programs to help school staff identify behavioral warning signs among students and intervene to provide support before violent incidents occur.

After the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, some on social media have called for hardening schools with armed officers. One post even suggested hiring a SWAT team for each school.

"We've sent $53,000,000,000 to Ukraine. That's $404,796 per school. You could pay 5 SWAT members $80,000 each and have them at EVERY school front door. With almost $5k left over. They don't care about you … or your kids. Get angry," a photo shared on Facebook on May 26 claimed.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

With about 130,930 public and private K-12 schools in the U.S., the math posited in this post works out. But the claim’s premise lacks context.

Over the past two decades, more and more schools have opted to bolster their security measures. The amount of public schools with security cameras increased from 19% in 1999 to 91% in 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number of schools with locked or monitored building doors also went up during that time period.

While school budgets vary by state and school district, an estimated $2.7 billion was spent on U.S. school security equipment and services in 2017, according to Omdia, a market-research firm. And billions more are spent each year to pay school resource officers, The Washington Post reported.

Following the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., spending on school safety programs increased by $960 million across at least 26 states, according to education news site The 74. The federal government also allocated an additional $2.3 billion to school safety that year.

The premise of the claim also falls short in that research shows no evidence that arming teachers — or in this case, hiring a SWAT team for each school — will protect students in future gun-related incidents.

Following the tragedy in Uvalde, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas falsely claimed that having armed law enforcement on campus is "the most effective tool for keeping kids safe."

But researchers and experts say that when it comes to preventing school shootings, there appears to be more evidentiary support for efforts that emphasize early intervention and support for students than there is for having armed law enforcement on campus.

Why has the U.S. sent $53 billion in aid to Ukraine?

Two weeks after Russia’s invasion began, Congress approved a $13.6 billion aid package to arm and equip Ukrainian forces and provide humanitarian and economic assistance to the region. Then on May 19, as the invasion neared the three-month mark, the Senate voted 86-11 to approve the largest military and humanitarian aid package for the country to date, bringing the total spending to more than $53 billion.

The $40 billion aid package included:

  • Roughly $24 billion to help Ukrainian forces finance weapons purchases, to replenish stocks of U.S. equipment sent to the country and to pay for U.S. troops deployed in nearby countries;

  • More than $13 billion in humanitarian assistance and economic support for Ukraine and other countries affected by the war.

With bipartisan support, the aid package was designed to sustain Ukraine for months, rather than weeks, as was the goal of the initial funding.

Do armed officers make schools safer?

Half of all public K-12 schools in the country already employ law enforcement or school resource officers who routinely carry firearms, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Those in favor of having these armed officers at schools see them as the first line of defense against shooters and other threats.

But the consensus among many experts is that armed officers don’t prevent mass school shootings.

A 2021 study published by JAMA Network, the American Medical Association’s open access journal, analyzed mass school shootings from 1980 to 2019. The study found the data suggested "no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases."

Another 2021 study by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, and the University at Albany evaluated data from schools between 2014 and 2018 to determine the impact of school resource officers. It found that while school resource officers can protect students from some forms of violence, like physical attacks and fights, there is "no evidence that SROs prevent school shootings or reduce more serious firearm-related offenses."

In 2018, the RAND Corporation launched a research initiative analyzing thousands of scientific studies to determine the effectiveness of 18 different U.S. gun policies. Through this, RAND found inconclusive evidence that any of these policies, including laws that allow armed staff at K-12 schools, have increased or decreased mass shootings.

How can school shootings be prevented?

Research and experts say there is no simple solution.

One approach, though, is for schools to have effective early intervention and support systems for students who are experiencing distress.

Students tend to show a range of concerning behaviors as their actions escalate to violence. A 2021 study by the U.S. Secret Service concluded that threat assessment — in other words, learning how to recognize behavioral warning signs and intervening effectively — is the best way to prevent targeted school violence.

The Educator’s School Safety Network recommends schools take a comprehensive, all-hazards approach to planning for, preventing and responding to violent incidents. This includes threat assessment and security measures, as well as looking for potential vulnerabilities within the school and its daily operations.

Often, there is "a big discrepancy between what the school has written down as a policy or procedure and what they actually do on a day-to-day basis," said Amy Klinger, co-founder of the Educator’s School Safety Network. "And that big discrepancy is a safety issue not just for active shooter (events), but for all kinds of potential safety issues."

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed that with the $53 billion spent in Ukraine aid, the U.S. "could pay five SWAT members $80,000 each and have them at EVERY school front door."

The U.S. has allocated about $53 billion in aid to Ukraine. And if one wanted to pay this amount to station five SWAT members at every public and private K-12 school in the country, it would also add up to about $53 billion over one year.

But that statement alone lacks context about current security funding for schools and what research shows about the effect of such measures.

More than $2.7 billion is already spent each year on school safety equipment and services nationwide. And this $53 billion, if spent as the claim suggested, would cover just one year of SWAT team coverage for schools.

Additionally, research shows that the presence of armed officers on campuses does not help prevent school shootings from happening.

We rate this claim Half True.

RELATED: Research: Armed campus police do not prevent school shootings

RELATED: How do we prevent school shootings?

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 26, 2022

National Center for Education Statistics, "Percentage of public schools with security staff present at least once a week: 2005-06 through 2019-20," November 2021

National Center for Education Statistics, "Percentage of public schools with various safety and security measures: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2019-20," October 2021

Journal of the American Medical Association Network, "Presence of Armed School Officials and Fatal and Nonfatal Gunshot Injuries During Mass School Shootings, United States, 1980-2019," Feb. 16, 2021

RAND Corporation and University at Albany, "The Thin Blue Line in Schools: New Evidence on School-Based Policing Across the U.S.," October 2021

RAND Corporation, "The Effects of Laws Allowing Armed Staff in K–12 Schools," April 22, 2020

RAND Corporation, "How Gun Policies Affect Mass Shootings," April 22, 2020

RAND Corporation, "Gun Policy in America," accessed May 31, 2022

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, "Averting Targeted School Violence," March 2021

Educator’s School Safety Network, "Violent Threats and Incidents in Schools: An Analysis of the 2018-2019 School Year," accessed May 31, 2022

National Education Association, "‘School Hardening’ not making students safer, say experts," Feb. 14, 2019

The Trace, "Do Armed Guards Prevent School Shootings?" April 6, 2019

PolitiFact, "Research: Armed campus police do not prevent school shootings," May 26, 2022

PolitiFact, "How do we prevent school shootings?," Feb. 15, 2018

Associated Press, "Senate ships $40B Ukraine aid bill to Biden for signature," May 19, 2022

Reuters, "Factbox: The big items in Washington's $40 billion Ukraine aid package," May 19, 2022

EducationWeek, "Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools," Jan. 3, 2019

The 74 Million, "Inside the $3 Billion School Security Industry: Companies Market Sophisticated Technology to ‘Harden’ Campuses, but Will It Make Us Safe?," Aug. 9, 2018

The 74 Million, "The State of School Security Spending: Here’s How States Have Poured $900 Million Into Student Safety Since the Parkland Shooting," Aug. 20, 2018

The 74 Million, "New Federal Funding Bill Pours Money Into School Safety & Early Education, With Smaller Bumps for Charters & Other Dept Programs," March 21, 2018

The Washington Post, "Billions are being spent to protect children from school shootings. Does any of it work?," Nov. 13, 2018

Omdia, "School security systems industry - US market overview," Feb. 26, 2018

Phone interview, Amy Klinger, co-founder and director of programs, Educator’s School Safety Network, May 31, 2022

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Claim suggests billions should go to SWAT in schools. But there’s more to consider

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